I am always very weary when I order from a place online that I have never bought from before. Especially a shop that is not widely known. But from the moment I found AIH I found their site to be charming and offered up some unique kits that I just had to try.
So with my bottom lip firmly between my teeth, I started adding kits to my cart. Before I knew it I had amassed no less than 4 kits! There was no turning back now! So I added a new bucket to my list and a carboy dryer. Why not right?
So now came the time to checkout. The cart system was easy to deal with and the registration process.was a snap. It was at this time I noticed they accepted Paypal. This was a bonus for me, since I am not very comfortable with sharing my debit or credit card information with places that I am not familiar with. So I went ahead with my order.
Shipping was well, let’s say.. a little on the high side for my taste. Bumping $18 I almost did not follow through my order. But let’s face it, not everyone has the luxury of having a “contractual agreement” with UPS for cheaper rates right? After all my order did weigh in at a massive 43 lbs. and the prices of the products was more than fair and competitive with other larger online stores. So with this in mind I proceeded.
With my order completed, I waited for the shipping notice. Much to my pleasure and surprise shipping took less than 24 hours and was received via UPS a total of 5 days after my initial purchase. I’ve had larger stores take days to ship my orders, so the fact these guys shipped my order so quickly was a good sign in my opinion.
The doorbell rang and like a child at Christmas I flew to the door to claim my presents. I lugged the nearly 50 lb box into my kitchen where I carefully opened the box to reveal my prizes. Immediately I noticed about 8 plastic white canisters of LME were all inside the box. This threw struck me as odd, as I expected the items to be packaged separately according to the kit it belonged to. It took a little time to separate out what belonged to what but eventually everything was sorted out. The one thing that made me feel like I made a mistake ordering from AIH was the fact that the Malt canisters were labeled with a magic marker, which was not all that appealing and cheapened the experience. I had to remind myself, that not every store has the means to purchase fancy labels and such for each kit they sell. But magic marker? Really? Anyway I proceeded with my inspection.
My first order of business was to check for canister leaks. Thankfully, not a single canister leaked in transportation, mainly in part to the careful attention to taping the canisters shut to prevent this exact thing from happening. However, the use of clear packing tape for this application looks cheap and does not present well and gives an overall sloppy appearance.
As I dug deeper into the box I found the grains. It was at this time I noticed that AIH did something I had never seen another company do. They crushed the grains (optional), and loaded the grain in a grainsock tied it up and vacuum sealed them with the instructions (facing out so I could read the kit ingredients), I loved that they took the time to do this as it really is nice to just open the bag knowing your grains are ready to go when you are. However, I would have liked to have seen the ingredients for the kit packaged with the grains, as I ordered multiple kits and had to sort them all out myself.
Finally, I carefully checked each kit to make sure that everything was included and nothing was forgotten or missed during packaging. Afterall my order was a large and complicated one with literally dozens of individual ingredients. It would be extremely easy to overlook something. I am happy to report that not a single missing ingredient/item was found. Everything was there neatly packed into individual sealed packages.
I went ahead and opened up one of the kits (as I would be brewing it that day) to inspect the quality and freshness of the ingredients. The moment I opened the grains I was smacked in the face with a strong malty aroma. I tasted the grains and they were sweet with no weird tastes or staleness. I did this to see if the grains had been sitting around somewhere for multiple weeks (or longer). Old grain is not something you want to use for brewing. Fresh ingredients are essential to a great brew.
Next I opened up the hops and tasted them. Nice and pungent, just like I like them. The color of the hops was also on par with not being old. Old hops will lose color as they age. However I know of a few brewers that like to age the hops for weeks and sometimes longer before use.
The LME smelled great, had retained great color, and tasted just fine. The only thing left was to check the yeast expiration date. All the yeast included would not expire for at least 1 year and one as late as 2018!
The only thing left to do now was to brew the kit.
The instructions that are included with each kit are easy to follow and do not confuse the brewer like some I have read before. I brewed up the first kit with no problems at all. So I feel fairly confident that new and novice brewers would be able to pick up one of these kits and proceed with confidence.
5/10 – Not that Great
I would caution my fellow brewers with purchases from AIH with the understanding that the packaging is not as up to par as many other online vendors and the possible mishandling of the liquid malt.
If AIH continues to provide quality ingredients and kits with the attention and care they provided my order, I have no doubts that we will see a new contender to the larger stores in the future and I will be here buying my AIH kits with a smile on my face. My only complaints would be that the packaging needs to be updated to reflect the quality of the kit. For a $50 kit I DO expect more than just sealed plastic bags, taped jars, and magic marker labeled ingredients.
Addendum – After ordering 5 total kits from AIH I finally reached the final kit for brewing, and much to my horror, there was mold growing in the previously unopened canisters. Now, I did not refrigerate these containers (as I have never done beforehand and never had this happen before), so perhaps this was my error, but deep down I feel this was not my error. I personally feel this mold grew from improper handling of the ingredients themselves.
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This review is the sole opinion of The Brew Monks and in no way officially endorses or condemns the product(s) or company behind the product. If a product has been received for free it will state so in the review. Your purchase experience may vary.